North lashes out at commentary

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North lashes out at commentary

North Korea blasted South Korean Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo, claiming, in a direct rebuttal to a remark he made criticizing the regime’s denial of its abduction of South Koreans during the 1950-53 Korean War, that it was Hong and Seoul that were breaking moral laws.

The North’s propaganda arm, the Uriminzokkiri, ran an article on Tuesday entitled “Who is breaking moral laws?” in which it blamed South Korea for “abducting North Korean citizens,” and argued it was Seoul that was breaking those codes.

“The majority of North Koreans in the South who live under dismal conditions and suffer from blatant discrimination are the people who were abducted to the South,” the North said through its mouthpiece.

Pyongyang’s media outlet also went so far as to deny the existence of North Korean defectors.

The North’s harsh rhetoric against Hong was in response to a remark he made on April 29, when he met with the relatives of the abductees.

During the meeting, Hong said North Korea was “breaking the moral laws of the family relationship” by denying their abduction of South Koreans. He also promised that the government would do its best to coordinate reunions.

But despite its strongly worded response, North Korea insinuated that it would be willing to discuss holding reunions for the families separated by the war, saying the South “should lift the May 24 sanctions that have been standing in the way of fostering inter-Korean cooperation.”

The North also called on the South to prohibit activists from launching balloons containing leaflets critical of the regime across the border if Seoul was interested in holding family reunions.

Pyongyang has long demanded Seoul lift those restrictions - known as the May 24 sanctions - a package of punitive measures imposed in 2010 in retaliation for the North’s torpedoing of the Cheonan warship that left 46 sailors dead, in exchange for the resumption of inter-Korean talks.

Seoul, on the other hand, has called on Pyongyang to officially apologize for the incident, which led to the cessation of all inter-Korean business cooperation except for the Kaesong Industrial Complex. It has also hinted it may lift sanctions if the North apologizes.

Pyongyang has denied its responsibility for the sinking and rebuffed the demand for an apology.

But while North Korea condemned Seoul in its usual harsh tone, the prospect of a thaw in inter-Korean relations nonetheless arose Monday after the Unification Ministry granted a request by South Korean officials to meet with their North Korean counterparts in Shenyang, China, to prepare for a joint ceremony commemorating the 15th anniversary of the June 15 Declaration, adopted during the 2000 inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang.

It marked the first time in five years that the government had allowed such a meeting for the event.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]
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